At least as far back as Lev Vygotsky, psychological scientists and others interested in human cognition have considered the relationship between humans’ technology use and cognition. Vygotsky, for example, saw humans’ mediation of ‘tools and signs’ (i.e., technological innovations, both concrete and abstract) as a key part of the learning process, while psychologist Jerome Bruner argues that using technology has a recursive relationship with cognition – as we use tools to accomplish some task, our thinking about the task itself can change.
In this article from The Atlantic, writer Ross Anderson examines the growing body of technologies and methods explicitly designed for ‘cognitive enhancement:’
It could be that we are on the verge of a great deluge of cognitive enhancement. Or it’s possible that new brain-enhancing drugs and technologies will be nothing compared to how we’ve transformed our minds in the past. If it seems that making ourselves “artificially” smarter is somehow inhuman, it may be that similar activities are actually what made us human.
Posted in Human behavior, Human development, Intelligence, Judgment & decision-making, Learning, Linguistics, Memory, Neuroscience, Perception, Technology and cognition, Vygotsky
The Washington Post reports:
Crosswords can reflect the nature of intuition, hint at the way we retrieve words from our memory and reveal a surprising connection between puzzle-solving and our ability to recognize a human face.
“What’s fascinating about a crossword is that it involves many aspects of cognition that we normally study piecemeal, such as memory search and problem-solving, all rolled into one ball,” says Raymond Nickerson, a psychologist at Tufts University. In a paper published last year, he analyzed the mental processes of crossword-solving.
The Washington Post reports:
To neuroscientists, what happened to Texas Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday night looked like something very ordinary, exacerbated by stress: a “retrieval failure.”
It happens more often as we age. But the brain scientists say it shouldn’t be seen as evidence of an intellectual deficit or some medical problem. Instead, they say, retrieval failures offer a glimpse into how the brain does and doesn’t work, not just in the skulls of presidential candidates but for everyone else, too.
HealthDay News, via MSN, reports:
The first new guidelines in 27 years for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease could double the number of Americans defined as having the brain-robbing illness.
The guidelines, issued Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association and the U.S. National Institute of Aging, differ in two important ways from the last recommendations, which have been in use since 1984.
First, Alzheimer’s is now being recognized as a continuum of stages: Alzheimer’s itself with clear symptoms; mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with mild symptoms; and also the “preclinical” stage, when there are no symptoms but when recognizable brain changes may already be occurring.
Second, the new guidelines incorporate the use of so-called “biomarkers” — such as the levels of certain proteins in blood or spinal fluid — to diagnose the disease and assess its progress, but almost exclusively for research purposes only.
The New York Times reports:
Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost [relative to human analysis]…
Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents…
Computers are getting better at mimicking human reasoning — as viewers of “Jeopardy!” found out when they saw Watson beat its human opponents — and they are claiming work once done by people in high-paying professions.